Interconnectedness with nature - what does that mean and how have we lost it?
If I think about growing up in South Africa, a myriad of memories come to mind: early mornings spent driving to the beach before the heat of the sun could come bearing down. Splashing water, shrieks of laughter and the sting of salt in my eyes. Afternoons spent memorising different mammal tracks and features in preparation for our bush trips. Long afternoons in the sun learning the language of the bush*, trying to glean its secrets and rejoice in them.
I also remember the days where I was reluctant to spend any time in nature, preferring to stay inside and read a book or watch a movie. I’ve been lucky enough to live in a place where nature is brimming in abundance all around me and yet, at times (and even now too), I’ve failed to appreciate it in its full glory. That’s human nature I suppose. We are so busy concerning ourselves with constantly looking for more this or that from our lives that we often fail to see and truly interact with what is right in front of us, instead opting to let it slip from our grasp like sand from a broken hourglass.
We have forgotten what it is to learn from nature itself, and not just what we read in a textbook or see online.
I’ve been homeschooled since I was 12 years old and while I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to learn from the wisdom surrounding us, I’m going to tell you about my most recent experience. I took a trip to the Kruger National Park* last week and one of the highlights of the trip was the walking trail that we did with two guides who are embedded to the core with knowledge of the bush and all of the intricacies it has shared with them. We would wake up at 4:30 in the morning when the African summer sun was just starting to rise above the treetops, stumble around bleary with sleep and pull on clothes before setting out at 5 am in an attempt to escape the sweltering heat that would follow our steps doggedly.
The part that was so incredible for me is how we learned on the walking trail. We learnt about things because they were there and alive in front of us. We interacted with our subject of interest and education. Our guides would hear a certain bird call, brush against a certain tree or shrub, catch a flutter of movement and then dip into their vast wealth of knowledge to enlighten us on its complexities. For example, the healing properties of certain trees and the place they have held in our broad history.
We could also view first-hand the decimation that we as humans have wrought upon nature. Most South Africans are aware of the extinction that our rhinos are facing because of their horns but it is entirely another thing to see the evidence staring hollowly/harshly out at you. On our first day, we came across the skull of a rhino and surrounding anatomy. Our guide Nico, was able to tell us the sex, age and type of the rhino just by examining the remnants left behind of the life it lived. The white female rhino had unusually lived to the age of about 30 which is what rhinos in the wild should live up to but few ever have the chance. He could tell us that this particular poaching had been done by a South African cell by the way the horn had been cut off. Nico could also tell us of at least 12 rhino “graveyards” just that he knew of within a 6 kilometre radius. In the particular area of the park we were in, there used to be an abundance of rhino, with the record of sightings on one walk being 150 rhino.
We saw none.
Ninety-five percent of the rhinoceros population in the area surrounding the Wolhuter trail has been eradicated with only months old remnants to remember them. And this was evident in the bush around us. We came across several rhino ticks on our walks, who thankfully for us are completely uninterested in humans but unfortunately for them, they can only use rhino as their host species. Rhino ticks can go six months without feeding but with the dwindling rhino population being absent from the area for about 5 months, there is the question of what will happen to them. Now I know that you might think that’s not really a problem as it’s a tick and really, who likes ticks even if they pose no harm to us, but they are still part of our ecosystem. and therefore play a greater role. Irritating or as trivial as we think certain species are, they still play a greater role, one that we may not always be aware of.
We got the chance to witness evidence of people, so far distanced from us and our world of technology and instant gratification. The San, who were the original inhabitants of Africa as well as the world’s oldest people, left behind rock paintings that allow us to glimpse into their lifestyle where they were at one with nature, taking only what was necessary and then using every ounce of that. The San were deemed to be “savages” and “uneducated” by colonisers and even by other African cultures because the San were nomads and kept no livestock but in reality, I think that it is us, the “modern man” who are savages and uneducated when it comes the way we treat and engage with nature. We have lost that connection.
Interconnectedness is the state of being mutually joined or connected with something. The question that I will end off with is whether we will regain that relationship with nature where we can both thrive AND what will it take for us to do that?
*bush- the word South Africans use to refer to a game reserve. Going to the bush is equivalent to what Americans would call going on a safari.
*Kruger National Park- the Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa and is home to many forms of wildlife.
I’m Tessa Schroenn, an 18 year old girl from South Africa who has a passion for travelling and exploring the world and loves a good laugh as well as curling up with a book and a blanket, especially on rainy days.
About the author:
I’m Tessa Schroenn, a 17-year-old girl from South Africa who has a passion for travelling and exploring the world, loves a good laugh, and can’t wait to curl up with a book and a blanket, especially on rainy days!